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Now a renowned author based in China’s capital, narrator Guo is back for a visit to the Inner Mongolian village where he grew up speaking the language of his people. One day he finds himself at the summit of Mt. Gahai, the location of an ovoo — a heap of stones marking a sacred site — said to be a Shaman’s altar . . .
By David Haysom, February 15, '19
Since its release on the first day of the Lunar New Year, The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) – 郭帆 Frant Guo’s adapatation of the Liu Cixin novella (translated into English by Holger Nahm) – has been setting box-office records, upending expectations of what a Spring Festival blockbuster can be, and apparently even inspiring a Durex ad:
Here’s a round-up of some of the responses.
SOAS Centre for Translation Studies will be hosting a Chinese Translation Workshop: Translating Cultures, Literature, Films, and Non-Fiction on 28 and 29 March 2019.
Confirmed presenters and tutors are :
Robert Neather (HKBU, Hong Kong)
Wai-Ping Yau (HKBU, Hong Kong)
MA Huijuan (BFSU, Beijing)
Nicoletta Pesaro (Ca' Foscari University of Venice)
Claudia Pozzana (University of Bologna)
Marie Laureillard (Institut D'Asie Orientale, Lyon)
Cosima Bruno (SOAS, University of London)
Tickets here: https://store.soas.ac.uk/product-catalogue/conferences-events/international-academic-events/translation-workshop-by-cts-march-2019?fbclid=IwAR3LLD5BrDrrN3NrdLd_K06Y3-nCsrYbPc6QxIJi8fuFmTew54Hg-bjGnho
Warwick Translates is the first literary translation summer school to be held at the University of Warwick. The course will be taught in an all-day workshop environment using a variety of texts including non-fiction (essays, journalism, academic) and fiction (poetry, fantasy, children's literature and crime writing etc.) There will be plenty of opportunities for networking with publishers, agents, Warwick staff and one another. Lunch time events will include discussion panels with publishers and editors. Evening events will include a Translation Slam and a Keynote Lecture by Preti Taneja entitled ‘Translating Shakespeare in conflict and post-conflict zones: the challenge to “universal” human rights’.
As the workshops are all into English, it is essential that all applicants to the course are English mother-tongue level. The Chinese-to-English option will be taught by Nicky Harman.
WHEN: 6th - 10th July 2019. 10am - 4.30pm daily plus evening events.
Asian Books Blog runs its own literary award: the Asian Books Blog Book of the Lunar Year. We are about to confer the award for the Year of the Dog, just finished. Asian Books Blog highlights books of particular interest in, or especially relevant to, Asia, excluding the Near West / the Middle East. And, by the way, there are two translations from Chinese on the shortlist.
Voting closes at 5pm on Friday February 15, 2019, Singapore time.
Following on from last week's post about the Oxford Dictionaries Hindi word of 2018, Paper Republic have nominated their Chinese word of the year for the Year of the Dog, just closed.....
PS we'd love to credit the artist of this picture, currently anon. Let us know, please!
Good deeds, good returns.
Bad deeds, bad returns.
The Chinese Dream.
Not that it doesn’t come back.
Zao you zaobao, wan you wanbao.
Morning has morning papers, evening has evening news.
Early deeds, early returns.
Late deeds, late returns.
Late returns after gambling.
Famous party secretary, famous police chief,
they are in prison now. Or one is dead?
Killed a British guy, now they imprison Canadians.
Anyway, my poem.
Frankly speaking, we took this to a new level in Confessions, because many of the terms — perhaps most — that we Romanized in the novel were conveyed mainly or entirely by standard Chinese in the original. They appeared frequently throughout, and I felt that they conveyed something essentially Uighur, so we used transliteration to underline this.
They included: various terms for friend/brother (adash, aghine); foods such as süt chay (milk tea); rexmet (thanks); terms for jade mafiosi (Ghojam, Xojayin); karwat (a couch-like piece of furniture for lounging indoors, or outside in the shade)...
"....Broken Wings is a disturbing read for other reasons too: Jia Pingwa hints at Butterfly's impending mental breakdown, and presents us with an eventual rescue which may, or may not, be a dream sequence. Will Broken Wings appeal to English-language readers and if so, why? "
By Nicky Harman, January 27, '19
For interested readers, here's an online newsletter, launched May 2018 and now twice-monthly. They feature Chinese longform in translation and also some original English submissions by Chinese authors. The founder and publisher is Colum Murphy, a veteran Asia-based journalist, and Min Lee is the current editor and lead translator. They would love to hear from the translation community, be it comments, suggestions or story ideas.
Sidik Golden MobOff had turned his cell phone off again, so he was the only no-show for our evening tipple. The latter part of his double-barreled nickname, “MobOff,” was another tag pinned on him by his mates.
After he retired, his routine was to power off after an hour or so in the morning, and keep it off during the afternoon to avoid indulging with his meat-and-liquor sidekicks. This was in deference to Big Sister Roxian, his granny of a wife devoid of feminine appeal, who watched over him like a hawk. She’s ancient and her mouth is capable of the most vulgar invective, so it was no easy feat to catch a glimpse of our old brother’s crafty countenance.
If you went to his place to ask him out, from behind the slightly ajar door the crossgrained, eyebrowless mug of his deranged old lady appeared, her wild feline eyes glaring at you:
“I’m on the lookout, but I haven’t seen him either!” was her time-honored response.
Big Sister Roxian looks no different than the victim of a kidney heist—vindictive, as if today were the end of the world. She’s revolting.
By Bruce Humes, January 21, '19
China-based publishers are notorious for a misleading practice: the nationality of the author — not necessarily the language of the source text — is often noted on the spine or copyright page. Thus the reader may well believe she is reading a novel translated direct from the Swahili, when the source text is actually the English rendition of a Swahili original...
If you're interested in reading and/or adding to several comments on this topic, please click:
And see the comments immediately below the article itself.
Alec Ash: Well, let me try to help. I’ll swallow your bait and, for the first time after doing over eighty interviews for Five Books, break rank and lay into one of an interviewee’s book choices. You’ve convinced me of the historical merit of Shanghai Baby, as a record of the time when Shanghai was re-opening to the world. But I can’t help think it’s a novel of pretty terrible literary merit. I read it in translation, but dipped into the Chinese to get a feel for the original, and I still find the characters to be paper-thin stereotypes, written pretentiously as utter clichés: the virile German, the Shanghai dolls, the effeminate Chinese boyfriend. Not everyone could have been that two-dimensional in Shanghai of the 1990s.
Paul French: And that is why you’ve spent so many years in Beijing, not Shanghai. You know what? Everybody was that two-dimensional. Everybody, myself included. We went to Shanghai because we were out to make money. Look at the foreigners of that generation who went to Shanghai: they’re a money-obsessed, fairly frivolous bunch. To have had lots of depth and thought about what was going on? There wasn’t time to think. There was so much happening. We just weren’t as stoical and as serious as later generations and, particularly, the later generations that went to Beijing.
We came out of that crazy 80s decade in Europe and America, the go-go 80s, and went straight into the go-go 90s of Shanghai—it was a 20-year party that just moved from London to Shanghai. Of course, Shanghai itself had come out of nowhere all of a sudden. One day, it’s bloody Tiananmen Square, and then the next day, you can go to a disco every day of the week and take drugs and no one gives a shit. That’s an incredible thing within five years. So you could write the ‘right-on’ book about it, but this book instead feels ‘spot on’ to me. The Germans are spot on. The guys are spot on. The girls are spot on.
By Nicky Harman, January 17, '19
The Guanghwa Bookshop (Shaftesbury Avenue, London) was packed for our "[Un]Happy Family" event with Yan Ge and translator Nicky Harman last night. We talked about Yan Ge's novel The Chilli Bean Paste Clan (in Chinese《我们家》), its complicated characters, and what was in Yan Ge's mind when she created her middle-aged male [anti]hero, when she herself was in her mid-twenties. And we talked about the challenges of translating colourful Pixian Town obscenities into English, a language where swearing is kind of pale by comparison...and much much more. Thank you all for coming!
His mild manner seems at odds with the lurid violence of crime novels. In “Death Notice,” the killer of two police academy cadets in a gruesome bombing resurfaces after 18 years, this time orchestrating the murder of a revered police sergeant whose failure to solve the original case haunted his career.
Then, as now, the killer fashions himself as an avenger, bringing justice to those whose crimes have gone unpunished. The killer calls himself Eumenides after the third of the Oresteia ancient Greek tragedies by Aeschylus and warns each of his victims in notes drawn with exquisite Chinese calligraphy, luring the police into a diabolical game. The new killing spree revives a special police task force that had been shelved for reasons that, to explain fully here, would amount to a spoiler.
One morning in May, a truck from the army barracks stopped at the entrance of Emerald Cloud Lane. A bevy of gaudily attired prostitutes flaunting heavy makeup ambled out of the lane and clambered up over the truck’s tailgate… The last prostitutes to emerge were Autumn Grace and Petulia of Red Delight Pavilion. Autumn Grace was wearing a silk brocade Mandarin gown and high-heels. She leant against a doorframe as she bent over to smooth out her stockings below her knees. Petulia, who was following, looked as though she had just woken up; hair unkempt and dark circles under her eyes.
The rest of the novella tells the story how the two close friends, Autumn Grace and Petulia, alternately cope with the “New Society”. Autumn Grace escapes from the common transport and ultimately takes refuge in a nunnery. The aptly-named Petulia petulantly pouts her way through her spell of manual labor, only to latch on to Mr P’u, one of the Red Delight Pavilion’s more dapper erstwhile customers and, in fact, Autumn Grace’s regular.
The three protagonists in this ménage à trois adapt to the new reality, after a fashion, not terribly well, but life goes on. All that remains of the old life in the end is a rouge tin.
The 350-page memoir, half in prose and half in color drawings, is a vivid, at times intimate, portrait of a changing China. The story begins with Pingru’s childhood in the 1930s, a time when “the charms of my hometown had not changed much since the days of the Song dynasty [10 to 13th century AD],” and ends in the 2000s, where dialysis equipment for Meitang can be installed in the couple’s bathroom. In between, we see Pingru in close combat with Japanese troops, traveling with Meitang after the war, and enduring hardship at the labor camp. The perspective of a KMT soldier – something China's censors still limit today – will be an eye-opener for many readers, especially young people of Chinese descent around the world.
In 2012, President Xi Jinping used the phrase the Chinese Dream (zhōngguó mèng) to describe “the great rejuvenation” of the nation. A national solidarity movement, the Chinese Dream attempts to fuse cultural pride and individual self-realisation with the country’s economic growth and rising influence. The slogan is everywhere, on billboards, in speeches and advertisements, and mixes patriotism and self-help with the “twin goals of reclaiming national pride and achieving personal wellbeing”.
Ma was born in 1953, the same year as Xi Jinping. Both men witnessed the shaming, exile and loss of family members during Mao Zedong’s political campaigns. In 1983, Ma himself was arrested for the crime of spiritual pollution; he chronicled his exile to the most remote regions of the country in Red Dust, an unforgettable memoir of post-Mao China. Today, the lives of Ma and Xi remain strikingly at odds. In 2018, Xi ended term limits on the presidency, thus opening the door to his indefinite rule. Ma, barred from even entering China, has mischievously stolen Xi’s signature slogan.
Ma, who has gone under the sobriquet of “dissident writer” for most of the past 20 years, is banned from his native country, his works unpublished in mainland China. Ironically, the suppressing of one form of liberty has allowed his own freedom of expression to flourish — Ma is a far more explicit, and, for a man of famously tranquil demeanour, enraged interpreter of China than his compatriots.
Mr Ma’s critique of the totalitarian mindset recalls that of Soviet-era dissidents. For him, the might of the state rests on its erasure of history, private and public. His anti-hero tells pensioners at a mass golden-wedding festival that “the past must be buried before the future can be forged”. This novel suggests the contrary, in scenes of slapstick mockery punctuated by tragic and elegiac interludes. Coercive amnesia traps a person, or a society, in a cycle of neurotic repetition. What is repressed always returns. Ma Daode finds that “his memories are like footballs on a pond: the harder he pushes them down, the higher they bounce up again.”
“China Dream” is a sharper political allegory than Mr. Ma’s earlier novels. It crackles with bruising satire of Chinese officialdom, and an acerbic wit that vaguely recalls Gary Shteyngart’s sendup of Russian oligarchs in “Absurdistan,” or even Nikolai Gogol’s portraits of Russia’s provincial aristocrats in “Dead Souls.”
Yet even for Mr. Ma, whose work is banned in mainland China, the novel is especially provocative because it makes a critique that is rarely uttered aloud these days by ordinary Chinese: that censorship and repression under a Xi-controlled Communist Party bears an eerie resemblance to that of the Cultural Revolution.
While one might expect “Little Reunions” to chart Julie and Chih-yung’s affair and subsequent marriage, and then her later affair with Yen Shan, it does not. In fact, the novel resists tracing any one particular relationship in a focused way. Eileen Chang (1920-95) uses broad brush strokes to take the reader through decades of a crumbling family. At this time in Chinese history, the aristocracy is falling out of favor. Looming on the horizon a few decades ahead is the Cultural Revolution. Readers should expect an extensive cast and speedy transitions, and take stock of the character index, a helpful 10-page, alphabetized list of everyone in the novel. And, given these quick transitions, be prepared to jump from event to event; for example, from an intimate conversation between mother and daughter to a sudden bombing.
First published in 1994, “Notes of a Crocodile” is in many ways a futuristic text, as it contains conversations about identity that are happening now — and ones that have yet to. It is refreshing to read a novel that so frankly examines patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia, gender normativity and capitalism — especially one that howls so freely with pain. Lazi and her friends are philosophers who feel. They convey the rich and vital role of emotion in any revolution. Like gender and sexuality, the depths of pleasure and especially of sorrow are revealed here on a spectrum. Qiu reminds us that “positive” examples of the homosexual in literature and pop culture can be neutering and dehumanizing, as they often speak more to the institutions that despise them. Lazi exhibits moments of bliss and epiphany in a more complicated emotional terrain — the joy is in her mind, her pleasure in thinking, talking and writing — especially writing what she is unable to say.
...only a few [African] authors have had more than one volume dubbed into Chinese, and even fewer with two or more books. These include the likes of Nigerian authors Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, Kenya’s Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee, and the sole Lusophone writer with at least three novels now in Chinese, Mia Couto of Mozambique.
“Science fiction is as rare as unicorn horns, which shows in a way the intellectual poverty of our times”, wrote Lu Xun, one of China’s most towering and revered literary figures, writing about science fiction literature in China in his preface to his 1903 translation of Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon.
116 years later, science fiction in – and from – the People’s Republic of China has come a long way since then, to become what is arguably the most popular genre of literature in China and with translations of Chinese science fiction picking up pace and finding a ready and eager audience – to the extent that some have even referred to it China’s greatest cultural export since kung fu – one can safely say that Chinese SF’s journey to the west (and elsewhere) has only just begun, with its star showing no signs of diminishing. But it wasn’t always so.
The Shanghai Writing Programme invites several internationally acclaimed writers to spend two months in Shanghai, China. The residency is an annual event which has hosted 69 writers from over 30 countries since it began in 2008.
By Eric Abrahamsen, January 9, '19
Comma Press, based in Manchester, is putting on a one-day translation event together with Multilingual Manchester, part of the University of Manchester.
Helen Wang will be leading the Chinese workshop, so sign up now! It's free. More details here.
The novel is set in a village over a 24-hour period in June in which the villagers are afflicted by mass somnambulism, or as the Chinese put it “dream walking”. The events are recounted hour by hour through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy, Li Niannian, whose parents eke out a living making and selling funerary paraphernalia.
Our hero’s maternal uncle is also in the death business, as the official in charge of the crematorium: his zealous enforcement of regulations that ban burials and mandate cremation make him both rich and universally hated. It is also widely suspected that Niannian’s father is an informer, earning money from tipping the crematorium off about village families secretly burying their dead. Later, he buys and stores barrels of human oil that the crematorium collects from the corpses. Quite why is unclear, although those same barrels re-enter the plot at the redemptive finale.
Despite Yan’s demurred (and understandable) aversion to political interpretations, the novel’s critical intent is self-evident. “Dreamwalking” inverts President Xi Jinping’s much-vaunted though nebulous “Chinese Dream” with horrifying effect. At one point, Niannian’s dreamwalking aunt and uncle prepare four dishes and a soup laced with an insecticide for their fellow Gaotian ruling elites, who, unlike the villagers, eat and socialize rather than steal and kill. Although the expression “four dishes and a soup” dates to the Ming Dynasty, President Xi has used it as a coded exhortation towards modesty and frugality amongst Party elites. As Niannian observes early in his narrative, “Everybody believed in dreams, but didn’t believe in reality. It was all quite odd.”
Alat Asem begins his narrative with the backstory to the name of the protagonist, an anti-hero ripe for moral transformation named Eysa ASAP who exemplifies the hardened, survivor's will of a Uighur man out to better himself, but who in the process only hurts those closest to him.
"ASAP" originates from his ability to attract women with stunning immediacy. It is his weakness for compulsive action that sends him spiraling into the pulpy yarn of "Confessions," rich with the special qualities of Uighur literary wit arguably best interpreted in four sequences, as subtle plays on the pseudo-religious themes: death, resurrection, repentance, redemption.
Including papers on Chinese children’s lit (gender, politics, war, transculturation, ethnicity, criticism)
By Bruce Humes, January 1, '19
Several of Yan Lianke's novels have not been published in China, or were initially published in Taiwan because he couldn't find a publisher in the PRC. Although he teaches at Renmin University of China in Beijing, the authorities seem keen to silence much of what he says, in fiction or otherwise.
Such is the case with a Dec 27, 2018 interview of him by The Beijing News (新京报), which has already been taken off the internet (looks like I'm wrong, see comments!), but saved -- for now anyway -- in a Google cache file.
Entitled 一个伟大文学的时代已经悄然消失, it can be found here in text form, and here with several photos (covers of his novels + a few of him).
I have copied the entire interview below in Chinese (text only).
Review by Julian Gewirtz in The New York Times of THE DAY THE SUN DIED, by Yan Lianke, tr Carlos Rojas (Grove Press)
I’m a banned Chinese novelist not a corrupt spy chief: author Ma Jian tries to clear up news outlets’ confusion
Warning: Several Paper Republicans figure on this list...
She is settled with the current image of herself, resting in a second language, watching the world through fresh lenses. It’s hard to know why she came all this way. She always enjoys doing difficult things, possibly a consequence of her over-exposure to Greek mythology as a child. But it’s more than that. She thrives when there’s a struggle and believes life is ultimately about endurance – but neither matters here. Ah, yes: a second language interrupts her, reflects her constantly as a stranger, and as a fiction writer, a compulsive observer she enjoys meeting strangers. Slowly and imperceptibly, she discovers who she really is.
There are many ways to translate a given sentence, but how do we know which one works best? These language-specific workshops (running simultaneously) will be aimed at would-be translators of fiction from Arabic, Chinese and Polish. Groups will work on collaborative translations of texts across different genres, guided by experienced literary translators. This is a great opportunity to take your translating to the next level, hone your creative writing skills and meet like-minded people.
As 2018 comes to an end, according to the bilingual database African Writing in Chinese Translation, there are 143 titles dating from the sixties through today — mainly novels, but including short story and poetry collections — from which to choose.
The 2018 batch of new titles — 13 in all — looks rather more varied...
‘The list of award-winning titles is more diverse than ever, with translations from 15 countries and 12 languages, including Bosnian, Indonesian, Slovenian and Tamil, with the first ever novel from the Comoros Islands to be translated into English. English PEN is thrilled and proud to be supporting such an exciting range of outstanding titles.’
The Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing has just launched its 5th Bai Meigui Translation Competition. This time it's a short story by award-winning Hong Kong writer Chan Ho-Kei. Judges: Jeremy Tiang, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming and Natasha Bruce. Deadline: 25 Feb 2019.
...in which I interview Natascha Bruce, who has been on a residency with Dorothy Tse, the noted Hong Kong author of surreal stories.
One thinks of the hidden time bombs that explode about a decade after they were set. Are these metaphors for shocks to the Chinese psyche such as the Cultural Revolution or, to quote Yu, China’s current “societal progress [which] has already damaged an entire generation of young people who revere materialism”.
15 classic SF stories selected by Liu Cixin (author of The Three-Body Problem) and Han Song.
By Nicky Harman, December 10, '18
The brilliant Charlotte Collins has chosen at least one great translation for each of the last 60 years. Read about them here or on Twitter #TA60, or on Charlotte's Facebook page. And keep following until next June, and like and share, of course. She has unearthed some fascinating nuggets of information about some classic novels.
By Nicky Harman, December 9, '18
We say this every year, but this really is a bumper crop. From classics to contemporary literature, poetry to scifi to short stories and a beautiful graphic memoir (Rao Pingru), our list this year has nearly forty novels or other book-length works, and six poetry collections.
And some of last year's books have won or been listed for prestigious prizes:
Remains of Life by Wu He, tr. Michael Berry (Columbia University Press), 2017, was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award 2018.
Notes of a Crocodile, Qiu Miaojin, tr. Bonnie Huie (New York Review Books), was longlisted for the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and won the 2018 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize.
The Stolen Bicycle, by Wu Ming-yi, tr. Darryl Sterk (Text Publishing Company), was longlisted for The Man Booker International Prize.
Click Roll-call of Book Translations from Chinese in 2018 for the full list.
And finally, our previous years' lists start here.
The TSLR has nominated works by Sheung King, Xiao Yue Shan, Lynn Zhao, Francis C. Macansantos, Andrena Zawinski, Xu Xiaobin and Nicky Harman for The Pushcart Prize
Alexander Dickow reviews two quite different books of Chinese poetry in translation: Li Shangyin 李商隱, translated by Chloe Garcia Roberts, Lucas Klein, and A.C. Graham (NYRB), and October Dedications, the selected poetry of Mang Ke 芒克, translated by Lucas Klein with Yibing Huang and Jonathan Stalling (Zephyr/Chinese UP).
The books that will be the focus of our attention will be English language books for children and young adults that are either written by authors who have lived in Hong Kong, or were produced in Hong Kong, or follow a story set in Hong Kong.
By Nicky Harman, December 3, '18
Paper Republic has produced some new resources, for general readers and for librarians. Resources for readers provides guidelines, links and suggestions, all on one page. The resources for Librarians, intended especially for librarians in schools and community groups, has two sections: Stories in the Original Chinese for Schools and Libraries and Chinese Books in English for Schools and Libraries. Check out the clickable links on the left-hand side of this page, under Resources
"LIKE THE GHOSTWRITER, THE TRANSLATOR MUST SLIP ON A SECOND SKIN."
But it is hard to argue that Chang’s work is a simple rejection of the notions that history affects people’s lives or that people often ponder their place in the larger scheme of things. Perhaps the best way to characterize Chang’s attitude toward historical consciousness is not as a pat rejection, but instead a speculative probing of the margins of this consciousness as it ineluctably affects her protagonists. Rather than the patently visible epic vicissitudes of history, Chang looks at such consciousness as if looking at the negative to a film.
As translators, we believe it’s vital to comprehend the context of the story and convey the author’s message holistically, both spoken and unspoken, rather than simply translating the text on a word-for-word level.
Paris Review on Can Xue's Love in the New Millennium
Translated from the Chinese by Isabelle Li.
"The tick-tock of time dripped from clocks like rust stains, dot by dot, covering the entire iron piece, finally obscuring it. The murky, red-brown rust turned darker and darker until the iron could no longer be seen."
By David Haysom, November 18, '18
For anyone in Guangzhou or Shenzhen over the coming week, don't miss the 3rd EU-China International Literary Festival! We have leading European authors from Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland, Sweden, and the UK, plus 40 great Chinese writers. An array of wonderful discussions lined up in a week jam-packed with literary events. Check out the full programme here: http://eu-china.literaryfestival.eu